6 Steampunk Anime to Whet Your Whistle
by Lynzee Loveridge,
Steampunk is one facet of geek interests that even the uninitiated has probably seen at anime conventions thanks to cosplay. Steampunk versions of popular characters, be it Disney princesses or Ghostbusters, have existed in one form or another for years. Mostly though, the phenomenon is relegated to Western media, what with the theme's roots in Victorian or Wild Western clothing and Lovecraftian monsters. As a result, we don't see much steampunk coming out of Japan but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Buckle your boots and start up your Rube Goldberg machine for a look at some anachronistic anime.
6. Castle in the Sky Studio Ghibi's 1986 film actually predates the term "steampunk," but steampunk it undeniably is. The story takes place during the Industrial era but throws in tinker-style robots and airships for a high-stakes adventure. Sheeta and Pazu board impossible contraptions that look like crosses between a hang glider and a brass hot-air balloon basket and a mechanically operated dragonfly, while a seemingly abandoned island floats in the sky via mysterious technology.
5. Unbreakable Machine-Doll Steampunk's second favorite plot device outside of fixing gears to things is introducing alchemy and magic elements into a Victorian setting. Unbreakable Machine-Doll combines both magic and technology to create Automatons, humanoid "puppets" brought to life to wage battles against one another at the behest of their masters. The story takes place in alternate, early 1900s Britain where a Japanese transplant has come to study with his Automaton and get revenge against his family's murderer. He enters a battling competition in the hopes of defeating the killer but it has the added bonus of introducing a harem scenario.
4. Sherlock Hound Take one of literature's most well-known characters and turn him and his compatriots into dogs. You'd think that switch-up would be enough for Hayao Miyazaki, but the man loved his touches of steampunk meets Jules Verne tech, as seen in Castle in the Sky, Howl's Moving Castle, and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. He wouldn't direct the latter, but instead it'd get passed off to his friend Hideaki Anno. Sherlock Hound integrates the same sci-fi elements with its canine cast, giving antagonist Moriarty a steam-powered vehicle that's a cross between a car and a tank.
3. Samurai Gun Earlier entries took its characters to the Industrial era but stuck with the expected Western setting. Really though, there's no reason a steampunk story can't be told in Japan. The turn of the century was a tumultuous time for the country. Matthew Perry forced open the borders, introducing greater Western influences, the reformation from the Tokugawa shogunate to the Meiji government, and the end of the samurai. Samurai Gun takes place in the midst of this turmoil where a group of vigilantes take up the latest technology the Industrial Revoution has to offer to battle the corrupt shogunate. Vigilantes and villains alike wield anachronistic firearms, from basic pistols to handheld Gatling guns.
2. Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Alchemist's strongest steampunk device is the series' use of automail, an armored prosthesis used to replace limbs on humans and even animals. Main character Edward's right arm is entirely automail after he lost it performing a risky alchemy experiment to resurrect his dead mother. The use of alchemy in the story is also explained; despite taking place in what appears to be the early 20th century, Fullmetal Alchemist is in an alternate timeline compared to our own where the development of alchemy has superseded other scientific pursuits. This leads to the anachronistic, albeit magic powered, advanced technology seen in the show.
1. Steamboy Steamboy is Katsuhiro Otomo's follow-up film to Akira, a status that has left it with less recognition than its esteemed predecessor. The movie took a decade to complete and US$20 million to produce and the result is the quintessential steampunk anime. Ray, whose last name is literally Steam, tinkers with steam-powered devices, technology that most civilization runs on. The advent of the steam engine is prolific and Ray's grandfather thinks that pure mineral water found in Russia-owned Alaska could serve as the best fuel. This discovery finds Ray in possession of a mysterious device and pursued by an even more mysterious organization. Automail humans, steam-powered cars, steam-powered castles, and even tanks all play a prominent role in the film.
The old poll: What Spring 2016 anime series are you most looking forward to?
- My Hero Academia
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable
- Bungō Stray Dogs
- Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto
- Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney)
- Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
- Joker Game
- Magi: Sinbad no Bōken
- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal: Season III
- Flying Witch
- Macross Delta
- Ushio to Tora
- Concrete Revolutio: Chōjin Gensō The Last Song
- Twin Star Exorcists
- The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water
- RIN-NE 2
- Super Lovers
- Netoge no Yome wa Onna no Ko ja nai to Omotta?
When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her son on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.
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